8 Bio-materials replacing plastics

8 Bio-materials replacing plastics

With increasing consumers demand and new legislation like the plastic tax, more businesses are looking for plastic alternatives. Here’s eight compostable biomaterials becoming the norm:

1. Wheat and oats

An image of a field of wheat on the left, and an image of coffee pods and cutlery made from oats and wheat on the right

Wheat, oats and other agricultural/food manufacturing waste are recycled into bio-polymers and moulded into a variety of products. For example, the coffee capsules in the picture above made of plant waste from harvesting a variation of wheat by biomaterials company Solinatra, and their cutlery and straws make use of oats, coffee grinds and other natural products. All these materials are home compostable and degrades in the same time as a banana skin.

2. Hemp

An image on the left of a hemp plant and an image on the right of containers made from hemp bioplastics

Hemp is a fast growing plant that can be manufactured into many different products, such as paper, kitchen utensils, furniture and shoes. The medium weight material is used in textiles. Hemp not only helps regenerate the soil, one hectare of industrial hemp also absorbs 15 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

3. Seaweed

An image on the left of seaweed and an image on the right of different coloured sauces enclosed in clear seaweed packaging

Seaweed is a marine plant that grows in oceans and rivers. Seaweed material is soft, flexible and is used in food production and food packaging, it is available abundantly and can grow up to a metre a day. 

4. Sorghum starch 

An image on the left of a Sorghum plant and an image on the right of containers made from packing peanuts made from sorghum starch

Sorghum is a cereal grain found in flowering plants that are part of the grass family, it is edible in the form of gluten free flour. The starch from this plant is used in producing packing peanuts and kitchen utensils. The great thing about sorghum is that it can generate more than one harvest from a single planting.

5. Bamboo

An image on the left of a bamboo plant and an image on the right of bamboo toothbrushes

Bamboo is easy to cultivate and the fastest growing plant on earth.The bioplastic material produced from bamboo is suitable for reusable water bottles, plates, beakers and is 100% compostable. Bamboo is very strong and sturdy whilst being a flexible material.

6. Fish waste 

An image on the left of many fish and an image on the right of different plastic products made from fish waste material

Fish waste is the new biomaterial on the block, made from waste coming out of fish processing facilities. This material is firm yet compostable, and needs only 4-6 weeks to break down. Its versatility means it can be made into lots of different forms like plastic bags, food packaging, goggles and beakers. While this material isn't as commercialised like others in the list, it holds huge potential as 172,702 tonnes of fish waste is produced annually in the UK, while the waste from a single Atlantic cod can produce 1,400 "plastic" bags.

7. Cellulose nanofibers

An image on the left of an apple tree and an image on the right of sponges made of cellulose

Cellulose taken from a wide range of plants such as carrots, flowers and apple trees are made into bioplastics. Cellulose materials are compostable and flexible, and can take on different properties based on the plant used. Cellulose materials have been used to make clear cellophane packaging replacements, cleaning sponges and bioplastic cutlery.

8. Potato 

An image on the left of potatoes and an image on the right of boxes made from potatoes

Potato starch is used to produce bioplastic bags for your recycling ,cutlery, straws and is a firm and flexible material. Potato starch products only take two months to decompose whilst providing nutrients for the soil.

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